Okanagan health unit trying to keep people alive through harm reduction

The desire and means to help people engaged in high-risk behaviours is alive and well in the Town of Princeton.

The public health unit, located at the Princeton General Hospital, distributes harm reduction supplies, for free. The demand for these products has increased in the past couple of years, according to public health nurse Jacqueline Cimbaro.

“I think people are becoming more aware now that it’s on the internet. They can look up on the internet the sites where they can get harm reduction,” she said. “My predecessor said she didn’t get a lot of call before for harm reduction – once in a blue moon. With the overdose crisis now people are much more aware and we have people coming in all the time.”

A myriad of products is available. Drug users can source clean needles, sterile water to mix with drugs, sterile cookers, alcohol swaps, tourniquets, Vitamin C – which is a safe acid that is also used when preparing drugs – and pipe kits.

Drug users are at risk of life-threatening infections if they use dirty equipment, and there is always the chance of cross-contamination with a poison like Carfentanil.

Relatd: It’s okay to ask for Naloxone – nobody here is going to judge you

People participating in high-risk sexual activity can also get condoms at the office.

Cimbaro said she probably sees about six clients a week, and sometimes those people are passing through town and locating the health unit using a phone app.

“There are people that think we are enabling people to do drugs and that’s not what we are trying to do here. These people are engaged in high risk behaviours already and we are just trying to help them do it in a slightly less risky way… We would like them to stay as healthy as possible and hopefully turn their lives around. We like to keep them alive long enough to do that.”

She stressed that distributing supplies is one small piece of Interior Health’s overall harm reduction programs.

“This is part of a much wider strategy throughout Interior Health. It’s all of those polices – programs and practices that aim to reduce death and injury to people…Drug and alcohol councillors, mental health clinicians, sometimes there are people in the community, family supports workers – it’s multi-faceted.”

All clients are anonymous and Cimbaro does not ask personal questions. However she said as a front line worker she is sometimes given the opportunity to help someone to treatment.

“It’s just one little door, if you will, and some people just want to come and get their supplies and go. And then some people want to ask a few questions. Some people say ‘you know, I am at the end of my rope and I think I need help. And then I can refer them to the appropriate agencies.”

Display to spark conversation about overdoses in Okanagan

Cimbaro said fighting stigma is part of the job.

“We are also trying to send a message that their lives matter. They are people who have an illness, like any other illness, and this is addiction,” she said.

“Some people are afraid. They don’t have sympathy for these people. But I would say to those people: ‘If it were your daughter, or son, or your mother or your father, or your best friend, how would that change things for you?’”

Related: Another Princeton family devastated by drug death

The Spotlight contacted Interior Health for information about the costs of harm reduction supplies and programming, but that request could not be filled as the paper went to press.

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
.



andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Candidates ready for Summerland Blossom Pageant

Royalty pageant will be held at Centre Stage Theatre on May 3 and 4

Funds presented for Growing Woman’s Health Campaign

Summerland Shoppers Drug Mart presents cheque for event held last autumn

Penticton adventure park hosting Easter Fun Day and Egg Hunt

LocoLanding Adventure Park is hosting the ninth annual Easter Fun Day and Egg Hunt Monday.

Summerland reservoirs expected to fill, despite low snow levels

Snow measurements at two Summerland sites have been significantly lower than normal

VIDEO: Weekend weather for the Okanagan-Shuswap

A mix of rain, clouds and sun are expected for the Okanagan, Shuswap and Similkameen

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Truck crashed and dumped near Predator Ridge

Police are looking for two men in connection with a stolen vehicle

Man seriously injured after driving wrong way down B.C. highway

Police say the driver hit a transport truck, then another car after merging from the off-ramp onto highway

Shuswap society finds pets often suffer in domestic abuse cases

SPCA, SAFE Society working together to provide shelter for pets of women fleeing abuse

Salt and Brick chef to compete in Canada’s Great Kitchen Party

Chef James Holmes will compete in the fall competition

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Give Canada geese at Okanagan beaches a break

LETTER: Tour busses, full of photographers, local goose guides and an annual goose festival

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Most Read